Aliens: Colonial Marines

ACM

I sat down to play the much maligned Aliens: Colonial Marines with two different biases moulding my expectations. On one hand, being a lifelong Aliens fan, the prospect of rushing down blue corridors with two-mouthed other-worldly life forms in hot pursuit filled me with anticipation; on the other hand, I found it hard to doubt that practically every game reviewer on the planet was wrong.  I don’t need to tell you of reception this game has received. The cashier who served me at my local games retailer frowned and slipped the game into a bag shamefully as if I’d just bought an erotic magazine. Things did not bode well.

Before I highlight the games many, many flaws, I thought I’d get the praise I have for the game out of the way. I do somewhat like Aliens: Colonial Marines. It isn’t going to blow your mind, but it’s not completely awful. The environments often successfully capture the mood of the movies, with tight, claustrophobic corridors and effective lighting making the inside of the inevitable abandoned spaceship you find yourself on shimmer a dull blue. When the spaceship is swapped out for the open-world, the planet you and the other marines sprint across does feel like another world, not just earth with a red filter over the sky. The banter between marines is sometimes comical, and other times it’s annoyingly macho. The story, continuing seventeen weeks on from Aliens, is fairly tight and at least gives you reasonably motivation to progress through the levels. Principally because ‘NO MARINE IS LEFT BEHIND’ as we are told hundreds of times.

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Now we’ve sorted the positives out, let’s talk about what’s wrong with the game. I’m aware that I’m working within the constraints of an article, but I could bore you all night with what is wrong with Aliens: Colonial Marines, so instead I’ll highlight some of the more obnoxious faults. Despite the immersive environments, the game is ugly. Graphically, it’s not a vastly better than Doom 3. I wouldn’t mind because graphics don’t make a game worth playing, but the pretty environments are repeated so many times that the ugly textures begin to grate, and you begin to notice that the screens on the laptops bulge out from the frame etc. Talking of the laptops, the game has collectibles in the form of laptops that contain audiotapes. If handled well, audiotapes can really help elucidate on a well-told plot, but as you’ve probably guessed, they aren’t handled well. There are about five in the entire game and they don’t add to the plot in the slightest way. Most annoyingly of all, there are hundreds of laptops scattered through-out the levels that don’t contain audiotapes, they are simply for decoration. Consequently, you’ll find yourself hovering around laptops waiting for the action command to pop on-screen, and if it doesn’t, you’ll find yourself pondering whether or not it’s a glitch, of which there are many.

I’m happy to say that I don’t feel many games insult me. However, Aliens: Colonial Marines insulted me because of the clear lack of effort put into it by its many developers. I don’t think I went ten seconds without encountering a glitch. The sound drops out if you fire your pulse rifle, which sounds more like a blowtorch than a machine gun, for more than a few seconds. Sometimes when you throw grenades, you might be able to see the pitiful explosion it creates, but half of the time you won’t hear it. Maybe this is a new kind of silenced grenade that I’m ignorant of that will revolutionise stealth gameplay, or maybe it’s just lazy developers not giving the slightest thought for their consumers. You decide. A lesson to whoever actually made this game: glitch test! If a builder built a wall which was filled of holes and was solvent in water he’d find himself queuing at the job centre before he could say ‘disappointment’. Why is it any different for game developers? As far as I’m concerned, I played an unfinished product.

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The weapons are horribly inaccurate and offensively ineffective. However, this problem is countered expertly by the fact that the enemy A.I. are as threatening as a bag of kitten-shaped marshmallows. The aliens (you remember, the hideous, slimy, grotesque aliens that had you hiding behind your sofa as a wide-eyed child) totter around like they’ve forgotten what they leaped from the ceiling for. They waddle towards you on two legs before being gunned down by the one in ten bullets that actually hit them. It’s almost cute when the game tries to be scary, despite the fact that it has absolutely no restraint. My fondest memory of the game was when I cut open a door to find an alien stood frighteningly, waiting to tear me arse from helmet. Then the door closed. I opened it again and there he stood. Then the door closed again. I didn’t even kill him, I just opened the door a third time and squeezed past him, assuming that he’d bumped into Medusa at some point. It has to be said that it isn’t to the games credit when my warmest recollection of my playthrough was a malfunction.

Sick of shooting at stupid, fleshy humans crouching behind small walls? So am I. At least Aliens: Colonial Marines offers a break from the cover-based shooting that triple-A developers have become so attached to. That is until you have to shoot at Weyland-Yutani mercenaries from behind small walls. It’s whilst playing the sections in which you have to combat the mercenaries that the inaccuracy of the weapons really starts to be a problem, because trying to headshot someone sat behind cover with one of the god-awful guns in this game is like trying to crack open a coconut by firing a ball of paper at it from a straw.

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The game does have a rank system in which experience is gathered and upgrades for the weapons are earned, and to be fair, upgrades like laser-sight really do improve gameplay, but you can also get aesthetic upgrades that let you paint flames on the side of your shotgun. Now, unless you’re a twelve year-old boy playing this game, which I’m going to assume you aren’t considering the fact that legally if you are a twelve year-old boy, you aren’t allowed to play it, then I’m certain the prospect of painting flames on a shotgun won’t make you rush out and buy this game. It has poorly implemented multiplayer modes and the singer player campaign is insultingly short, although this might actually be a point in the game’s favour.

I’m not being facetious when I say that I could write another thousand words about where this game went wrong. Despite all this, as I said in the first paragraph. I do like this game to a degree. However, my liking for it, minimal as it is, just makes me sad. There was potential for an amazing game in this poorly made mess, and the fact that through all the dirt you can see a glimmer of a great game just makes the dirt harder to swallow. Shame on you (insert responsible developers name here).

About Joseph Butler-Hartley
A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. I'll happily play most genres on a range of consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I also study Public Relations at Leeds Met and I sell sea shells on the sea shore.

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